As the business end of the League Cup approaches, we are down to our final eight teams and the Football League still boasts three members. Derby, Bournemouth and Sheffield United join Premier League big boys Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and Southampton in battle for a place in the final four. But who will it be? Will there be any upsets?
Derby County vs Chelsea
Steve McLaren welcomes Jose Mourinho to the iPro on Tuesday night, with the latter keen to avoid a very big banana skin.
It is top of the Premier League versus third in the Championship, but Derby County have had a near permanent spot at the top of the league, as have Mourinho’s Chelsea. The Rams however come into this encounter on an inconsistent run of form. At the moment a win seems to be invariably followed by a loss. Their last four matches read 2-0 loss, 3-0 win, 2-0 loss, 2-1 win. So if the pattern was to continue we could well be looking at a cup upset. Chris Martin will have the hopes of the iPro crowd resting on his shoulders on Tuesday night, with his red-hot scoring form set to continue. Martin currently has 14 goals this season, eight more than any other Derby player. BBC Sport have even drawn comparisons with Chelsea’s £30 million striker Diego Costa, due to his physical style of play and, of course, his knack for scoring goals.
Chelsea however have proved not wholly convincing on the road in recent games, with a 0-0 draw at struggling Sunderland followed by a 2-1 loss to Newcastle. This is unlikely to phase the ‘Special One’ as he goes to The Rams looking to set the record straight. Although it is a cup match against lower league opposition, do not expect Mourinho to tinker with his first team squad too much. We could perhaps expect to see Didier Drogba in for Diego Costa, Kurt Zouma in for Cahill or Terry, and John Obi Mikel in for Nemaja Matic. But fielding a weakened team against the highest scorers in the Championship would just be asking for a cup upset.
Score prediction: 4-2 Chelsea win
Sheffield United vs Southampton
The Yorkshire club perhaps have the biggest chance of causing an upset as they welcome Premier League high flyers Southampton to Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.
Despite their impressive start, the Saints form has stuttered badly of late, losing their last four matches which has seen them slip
from second to fifth. But Ronald Koeman’s men will be keen to put this right as they visit a team currently 44 places below them. Again, do not expect The Saints to rest many of their key men as they strive for a shot at European football next season. Big men such as Victor Wanyama could prove pivotal in combating United’s physicality, whilst the suspended Graziano Pelle could prove a big loss.
The Blades are no strangers to a cup run, especially under Nigel Clough, losing only two out of 17 cup matches. They captured the true meaning of ‘the magic of the cup’ last season as they battled their way to a semi-final defeat to Hull City at Wembley. The Blades also boast the better record between the two clubs with the Saints failing to score in their last five visits to Bramall Lane. Goals have often been hard to come by for Nigel Clough’s men this season having scored only 26 all season, the lowest of the League One top six, so danger men such as Jamie Murphy will be pivotal in breaking down the rigid Saints’ rearguard.
Score prediction: 2-1 Sheffield United win
Bournemouth vs Liverpool
A thoroughly intriguing encounter is set to take place at the Goldsans Stadium on Wednesday night, as top of the Championship Bournemouth host surprise Premier League strugglers Liverpool.
The Championship leaders are unbeaten in their last 12 league games, scoring 32 goals in the process. Leading scorer Calum Wilson could be the key to unlocking a Liverpool back line which, in truth, could be unlocked with a paper clip at times. But nonetheless, the 12 goal striker will need to be on form if he is to clinch what is a realistic upset.
Do not expect Brendan Rodgers to hold back here either. Following a Champions League exit and a 3-0 drubbing to rivals Manchester United, Liverpool will be desperate to regain some pride and some confidence to save their season. The obvious player to look out for is of course Raheem Sterling. The 20-year-old has been Liverpool’s stand-out player this season (not like that is saying much!).
I expect this to be a case of close but no cigar for Bournemouth tonight.
Score prediction: 3-1 Liverpool win (aet)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United
This is set to be one possibly the most fiercely competed match-up of the round. Two teams who have so often missed out on silverware in the past. Tottenham haven’t had any since their League Cup triumph in 2008, whereas Newcastle haven’t touched a cup since winning the Championship in 2010.
But who are the key men to watch for in this match? In the London corner, the emergence of Harry Kane has been a major source of optimism for Spurs fans. Starting with just he odd start in the Europa League, Kane has now cemented a place in the Tottenham attack, and showing his versatility, playing up front or as a number 10, and is now the club’s top scorer with 10 goals. Expect Nacer Chadli to make a start as well having come off the bench in the last few matches due to his rerun from injury.
Ayoze Perez and Pappis Cisse have been the two main goal threats for the Magpies this season, both of whom’s run of form coincided with the club’s up turn in fortunes. Perez has four goals since joining from Tennerife in the summer, whereas Cisse has seven, with many of these coming from substitute appearances. Newcastle and Alan Pardew also have a point to prove after their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal. They will be determined to show that their tremendous run of from through November was not a fluke, and what better place to do that then cup football.
Score prediction: 2-1 Newcastle win
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